Happy Birthday America

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As family members andneighbors gather together to celebrate the 238th birthday ofthe United States, it’s a good time for talking with family members about how the holidaywas celebrated in the past. How many of your group can remember thatIndependence Day became a paid federal holiday in 1941? Before then, it was anunpaid holiday for federal employees starting in 1870.

Did your family or communityattend parades? What types of things were in the parades? Did anyone march ortwirl? Was there a pie or hot dog eating contest in town? What did everyone eatat their cookouts? Are the same recipes still being used, handed down throughthe years?

How did the traditions evolveand change?  And fireworks... was it a private display in thebackyard or did the community provide the show? Ask some of the “older” people inabout the Bicentennial and what they remember.

In my family, we alwaysattended the local parade in Towson, Maryland. There were marching bands, batontwirlers and lots of convertibles filled with local dignitaries, waving to thecrowds. There were fire trucks and veterans from all wars. There were evenhorses with riders in cowboy hats and women in patriotic sequins! And lots ofclapping.

The parade took hours tocomplete and people arrived hours beforeit was scheduled to get a good seat with their folding chairs. It was importantnot to have to stand for hours in the hot sun.

The kids ran around, notreally paying attention to what was going. The big thing for us was to run backand forth across the street during breaks in the parade. The adults took theopportunity to talk to neighbors and compare notes from previous parades. Or atleast that’s what I think they did since I was one of the ones running acrossthe street.

After that, we had a cookoutin the backyard and waited for dusk to arrive to begin the hike to the hillwith the fireworks. The fireworks were donated by a local appliance store(Luskins). People came from miles to spread their blankets and doze off theirmeals before the big event. You never know what was going to happen. Severaltimes, there were accidents when the rockets didn’t launch as planned and therewere serious burns to the volunteers in charge of the event. A big hush wouldgo over the crown until the ambulance would drive away, with their own displayof lights and noise. Other years, the fireworks exploded low and the crowd wasshowered with tiny burning embers and ash. Most of the time, things went asplanned. The night sky would fill with bright colors in exotic patterns, whilethe night air was filled with “oohs” and “aahs” from the happy crowd.

Luskins has long since closedand the fireworks have moved to other places. New traditions were forced uponthe community. But if you ask anyone of a certain age, they’ll tell you thatthe fireworks today are not as good as they used to be. And there will be awistful look in their eyes, as they remember going to the hill.

When you’re talking with yourfriends and family today, remember to record the discussions, with video, audioor just by taking notes and writing about it later. Keep the memories alive;it’s what genealogists do.

by Victoria Kinnear © 2014, Genealogists.com. All rights reserved










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Written by


July 4, 2014
Wesley is the founder of hello@traceyourpast.com.

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